Interview: Evanna Venardou | Photo: Nikos Zappas
The new Mythodia of Paros
Paros will soon have its first private conservatory. The instigator of the project is a gifted pianist who dares to take the plunge in difficult times. Maroulia Kontou, originary of both Paros and Santorini, welcomes us to her house: a charming Cycladic house built with lots of artistry in the mountainous village of Kostos.
How did you take up music?
I loved the piano. It seemed magical. I saw people in front of a musical instrument and they seemed like angels to me. Eventually, thanks to my good grades, I got a harmonium. With that, it all started for me. And then, in a contest of a young girls’ magazine Ι won the prize, a big harmonium. I then lived outside Parikia, very detached. I started piano lessons at the Municipal Music School. In my second year and after an audition, Archilochus offered me a scholarship for a weekly course. I advanced very quickly and then went to Athens. Archilochus supported me throughout the course of my studies with a small but valuable scholarship.
Is it true that serious occupation with the piano requires a champion’s discipline?
Personally, I bet with myself how many hours of playing I could withstand. I reached up to 12. I followed a lonely path for many years. I remember that in my free time, I sat and copied books: Dimoula, the “Ascetic” of Kazantzakis … In Athens, I lived in a small room that could only fit a bed and a piano. In 2000 I got my diploma. I almost had a surgery because of overworking. I did physiotherapy. Piano requires working out. It is not just “sit and play.”
As a teacher, what have you learned all these years?
First and foremost, I found out that, fortunately, I love children! Of course, I realized that not all children are like me. And that one should not put a child’s soul in a “mold”. Sometimes I detect talents but eventually they pursue different paths like their fathers’ business… I taught for many years in the Music School of the Municipality of Paros. From 1998 until last January. This is so far the only music school that we have on the island.
I imagine you met Jeffrey Carson as well…
Of course. I ‘ve known him since I was a little girl. He was among the first who taught piano in Paros. There was a whole generation of musicians that owe a lot to Carson.
Your Conservatory, when does it premier?
In September. We have already submitted the dossier to the City Council. It will be housed in Parikia, in a 200 m2 building that has been configured accordingly (partitions, acoustic etc.).
What will you teach?
Piano theory, violin, guitar, drums (percussion instruments), bouzouki, kanonaki zither, bagpipe (tsambouna) and clarinet. My grandfather played the bagpipe and my great grandfather zither. I have a lot of respect for traditional music. In Paros you cannot say I will only teach Mozart. But we will also teach the saxophone, singing, jazz. Because there’s a jazz community here…
I imagine you will also have a choir. Besides, you’ve instructed for years the choir of the Municipality with flying colours.
You know, it was along the way that I discovered the charm of choral song. And finally, I felt what it was like to communicate, having experienced as a child this blockade, this isolation because with the piano you don’t have to look in anyone’s eyes. In the municipality I started with a choir of seven children that in our last concert had become fifty. We have won numerous first prizes over the years. Although this is a classic chorus, we have worked with performers such as Pantelis Thalassinos and Loudovikos ton Anogion. Loudovikos is also the godfather of our conservatory. He called it “Mythodia”.
Do you believe that the society of Paros is ready for this conservatory?
Only time will tell if along the way society can embrace it. Moreover, in my life, I did it all intuitively. However, our aim is that everyone should be able to attend! This means that we will have quite the affordable prices. What I want is my conservatory to create groups, friendships, to highlight young musicians, to develop the culture of this place. The light of music illuminates others, as well.
For more info HERE.